May 24, 2010

Josephus Thimister: A Review

I recently wrote a lengthy and pretentious review of Josephus Thimister's F/W 2010 haute couture collection for a new multicultural magazine my school is having. Some of it is like fashion for beginners since no one will have any idea what I'm talking about otherwise, but I'm such a huge fan of this collection that I have to post it. Here are some images from the collection. The review is below.

"All discussion of the legitimacy of fashion as a medium for political ideas aside, designer Josephus Thimister’s triumphant return to Paris fashion also marks the advent of a new ideology in haute couture. Not since John Galliano’s “1789” collection for Christian Dior Spring 2006 has haute couture looked to the people for inspiration. But whereas that collection was more a blood-spattered, self-indulgent romp than a genuine exploration of French citizens’ discontent (2005 marked a turbulent year in French politics), Thimister’s latest work represents an outsider’s stark and somber take on fashion’s place in a modern world marred by chaos and violence.

After winning the coveted first prize for design amongst his graduating class at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1987, Thimister soon took the helm at Balenciaga where he set a precedent for innovative modernism that continues to be carried out there by Nicolas Ghesquière. However, he was fired from the brand in 1999 after presenting a shocking collection inspired in part by Germany’s radical Baader-Meinhof terrorist group. Falling back on his eponymous label, THIMISTER, this enfant terrible continued to garner rave reviews and cultivate a following that appreciated thoughtful minimalism in the face of a fashion climate moving steadily away from grunge and towards superficial glamour and extravagance. Though he was named one of the top twenty-one designers of the moment by Vogue in 2001, Thimister was forced to close his label for financial reasons after presenting his Fall/Winter 2001 collection. He seemed to have disappeared completely from the Paris runways until this year, when the self-financed return of his label was bolstered by an invitation from the Federation Française de la Couture to be amongst the elite few to show at couture week in January (It is valuable to note that, out of all the couture collections, Thimister’s was the only one funded entirely by the designer’s own personal savings and loans from friends, rather than through an owning conglomerate such as LVMH or through capital from investors).

Befitting his outsider status, Thimister chose to present a fall collection during what is generally and perpetually regarded as a spring show season; he also showed menswear alongside womenswear, an unprecedented move for couture. Haute couture week is different from normal fashion week in that the clothes are made to measure, meaning that they must be fitted and purchased at an atelier and are never to be found on a store rack. This means that haute couture shows tend to be filled with excess and absurdity; they reflect the fantasy of many and the reality of few. Thimister’s collection, entitled “1915: Bloodshed and Opulence,” plays on this exclusivity by providing it with a dark historical context. The impetus for the collection ostensibly arose from photographs of Russia’s young Tsarevich Alexei in military uniform, and it developed into a politically charged examination of the First World War and the Russian Revolution as fundamental elements of the onset of a disillusioned modern era. “I'm not a political person,” says Thimister, who is part Russian, “But fashion has a voice and it is time to express my views.” The bloodshed in the collection was manifested by atypical (for couture week) fare such as staple-ridden tank tops, jodhpur-style pants splattered with bright red, and “survival blanket” trousers treated to look burnt. But the opulence, like that of the era’s dying aristocracy, also had a dark side, with ball gowns made from delicate grey tulle marred and distorted by the weight of beautiful silver ornamentation.

Despite the heavy concept, the collection is remarkably practical for couture. Structured military-style coats and jackets for men and women abound, some styled directly after WWI-era Russian army uniforms and others lined with red-tinged fur, an obvious reference to the astounding casualties faced by the Russian military in 1915. Yet, says Thimister, “You can find, even in the sort of ugly, rough, and tough pieces… a sort of poetry.” Indeed, limited to a palette of blood red, military green, white, and black, the collection has a quiet power to move and to disturb. How relevant, it forces us to ask, are yesterday’s social questions to the problems of today? Thimister seems to see parallels between the First World War’s disheartenment and disorder and today’s sense of helplessness in the face of overwhelming forces such as global warming and economic injustice. The finale of the show was not particularly hopeful. Before the lights went up, releasing viewers back into an increasingly tumultuous reality, Thimister sent out a line of identically dressed models in pilot’s jumpsuits, red bands slung diagonally across their chests, marching blank-faced into a bleak future."


  1. now that i see the collection the article comes alive. i really like the grey dress. and you didn't fix my edits. xoxo

  2. You have such great insight! I couldn't agree more. I really enjoyed that you gave a history of the designer so that the reader could understand the background and the inspiration behind it. I hope it was received well!

  3. it was good to see his return to couture. although i missed seeing lacroix this season, i feel like it's the whole idea of one thing dies for another to live...
    anyways, i agree with everything you have to say about the collection, so good